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With Restaurant Industry Gutted, Los Angeles Sheds Another 1.3 Million Jobs

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What’s worse: 86 percent of people nationwide say they are avoiding restaurants as a result of the coronavirus

The Line Hotel is boarded up beneath a sign for an Alfred coffee shop.
Alfred at the Line Hotel, boarded up
Matthew Kang
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

According to a stunning new survey out today from USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, publicized by the LA Times, more than half of Los Angeles residents are not employed. The staggering number comes from a survey of thousands of people both within Los Angeles County and nationwide. California governor Gavin Newsom said in his press conference today that more than 3.1 million people had applied for unemployment statewide in the past month alone.

Per the Times story, out today:

  • Only 45 percent of Angelenos currently have a job (61 percent held a job in mid-March, and in February the LA County unemployment rate was just 4.6 percent)
  • The loss represents another 1.3 million jobs in Los Angeles County
  • More than 25 million people are unemployed nationwide, the survey suggests

The thousands of respondents to the Dornsife Center study make for a representative sample meant to shed light on the greater economic realities during the current coronavirus pandemic. And with non-essential businesses closed and stay-at-home mandates put into place the across California, those numbers are not expected to improve any time soon.

A large number of recent layoffs have come from the hospitality and restaurant sector, which has been particularly hard hit. More than 800,000 workers across Los Angeles and Orange counties work in hospitality, representing nearly 15 percent of the total workforce. Many restaurants are faced with an impossible choice: Stay open for delivery and takeout only, risk their health, and hope to make enough money to stay alive, or close entirely, laying off staff, with the looming possibility of never reopening again.

The Dornsife Center study also noted a number of eye-popping nationwide trends:

  • 86 percent of Americans are “avoiding restaurants,” says the Times
  • 90 percent of Americans are now avoiding public spaces

Job losses have disproportionately affected people of color nationwide, and may not be entirely reflective of the full unemployment picture, given the large number of undocumented workers in America — particularly in the hospitality industry.

“People of color, especially African Americans, are more likely to have lost their jobs,” the report adds. “Nationally, 21% of African Americans and 18% of Latinos said they had lost their jobs, compared to 15% of whites.” Within Los Angeles alone, it is reported that as much as 40% of restaurant industry workers are undocumented.

Nationally, half of all Chinese restaurants have closed, owing to unfounded fears and racism surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and business is down at restaurants nationwide by over 60%. The Los Angeles County stay at home order, dubbed Safer at Home, has been extended so far to May 15, though California governor Gavin Newsom has begun discussing targeted ways in which the economy could begin to reopen this summer.